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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel that can appeal even to those who don't normally read sci-fi
This science fiction novel was published in 1971 and won the Hugo award in 1972. Farmer went on to write several other novels set in the same Riverworld, a planet that has been terraformed into one extensive river valley. Although it has its faults and is dated, it's still an excellent novel and essential reading for a science fiction fan.

Riverworld is a...
Published on 1 Mar 2010 by L. R. Richardson

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars boys' own adventure on the endless river
This is an enjoyable, sprawling adventure that falls somewhere between sf and fantasy. Richard Burton, real-life translator of the Arabian Nights, 'explorer, brawler, scholar' and all-round Real Man, wakens from his deathbed to find himself reborn, naked, into a strange world based around a seemingly endless river, hemmed in on either side by impassable mountains...
Published on 19 Feb 2009 by Amazon Customer


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel that can appeal even to those who don't normally read sci-fi, 1 Mar 2010
By 
L. R. Richardson (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Paperback)
This science fiction novel was published in 1971 and won the Hugo award in 1972. Farmer went on to write several other novels set in the same Riverworld, a planet that has been terraformed into one extensive river valley. Although it has its faults and is dated, it's still an excellent novel and essential reading for a science fiction fan.

Riverworld is a skilled novel that mingles history and science fiction. The main protagonist of the novel is Sir Richard Francis Burton, a fascinating historical figure who was a skilled linguist, explorer, and translator (he translated 1,000 Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra, for example). He spoke 29 languages, an ability that comes in useful. The book opens with Richard Burton dying as an old man and then waking up on a strange, other world. He and the others around him now inhabit 25 year old, hairless, unblemished bodies in the peak of health and vitality.

The people around him are from all different periods and are people fairly well-known, such as Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the child Lewis Carroll interacted with as a child and probably based his books off of) and Hermann Göring (a Nazi War criminal). Another prominent figure is a man from "the future" of 2008 called Peter Jairus Frigate (and I realized after reading the Riverworld wiki that he has the same initials as Farmer and evidently is like him in several ways).

The story follows Burton and his gang as they explore the vast river valley and try to discover answers--are they in heaven, or hell, or something else? I loved the situation because it is sort of how I imagined the afterlife when I was a little girl--we would be reincarnated somewhere else on another planet. It is also an insight into the nature of humanity and what we would do if we started over in a world where there is no aging, no death, and no birth. If a person dies on the Riverworld, they are reincarnated and wake up somewhere else. They can obtain food and recreational drugs from mysterious contraptions around their wrists called grails and special sites called grailstones. Some of the people reincarnated on this world were horrible people during their lives, such as Göring, but even he changes in this new world.

While overall I highly enjoyed the book, I had some gripes with it as well. I wouldn't say it's sexist, per se, but some aspects of the way women are portrayed raised my hackles. The men's nude bodies are rarely mentioned but the women's are always mentioned when a female character is introduced. At one point Burton says of Alice Hargreaves to the effect that "she is only, after all, what men have made her" when ruminating about her Victorian uptight morality. Perhaps it is because we are following Burton's viewpoints. But aside from that niggling feature, it's an amazing novel that explores the nature of humanity.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful idea, told with greater than adaquate skill, 25 Oct 2001
This story is based on an idea so big it's not surprising it took four sequels and a further hundred or so characters to express it in its entirety. As a piece of science fiction, the science is believably presented (for the most part), cohesive, and intriguing, and the fiction is of a marvelously inventive calibre. In fact, it could be considered as bordering on science fantasy - the situations are certainly fantastic enough, and there's a lot of action. In fact, I found this to be the one real weak spot of the series as a whole - too much time has gone into describing various fight scenes (be it among makeshift aircraft, between proud boats, or simply good old fashioned fisticuffs) in blow-by-blow detail. Personally, I found this occasionally had the effect of making the story seem childish and the writing seem laboured.
The writing itself is not of an amazingly high quality, but it doesn't suffer at the expense of the ideas as much as in many other SF and F novels. It's not bad; it's just obviously not the focus of the story, that's all.
In any case, it would be worth putting up with far worse for the sheer pleasure of reading about Alice (In Wonderland)'s meeting with Mark Twain, or how King John might interact with Herman Goring.
All in all, a dazzeling and readable piece of inventive storytelling, well worth a littel time and money. But be warned: if you're gonna read one, you're pretty much commiting yourself to completing the entire series.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More a Metaphysical Fantasy than Orthodox Sci-Fi, 25 Oct 2010
By 
J C E Hitchcock (Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Paperback)
"To Your Scattered Bodies Go" is the first book in Philip José Farmer's "Riverworld" series. The title is derived from a poem by John Donne in which he imagines the resurrection of the dead; Farmer's novel also concerns this subject, although, unlike Donne's, his interest in the subject is not religious but imaginative and speculative.

The basic idea behind the novel is that every single human being who has ever lived, from the Stone Age up until 2008 AD, is simultaneously resurrected on a strange planet ("Riverworld") whose surface seemingly consists of one single river-valley several million miles long but only a few miles wide; on either side of the valley are impenetrable mountains. The planet has an equable climate and is covered in vegetation, but has no animal life other than earthworms and various types of fish in the river. Those people who died as children are resurrected at the age at which they died; those who died as adults are, irrespective of their age at death, resurrected as young men and women in their twenties with perfect, healthy bodies.

The main character is Richard Burton- not the actor who was twice married to Elizabeth Taylor (he was still alive when Farmer wrote the book in 1971), but his Victorian namesake, the famous adventurer, explorer, writer, translator and linguist. Other real historical individuals who feature prominently in the novel are Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the inspiration for "Alice in Wonderland") and the Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering, as villainous in the afterlife as he was on Earth. Another important character is Peter Jairus Frigate, a fictionalised version of the author himself; the two have the same initials, the same date of birth (1918) and the same home town (Peoria, Illinois). Remarkably, Farmer came within a year of predicting, through his alter ego, the date of his own death. We learn that Frigate died in 2008; Farmer himself was to die in February 2009.

In some ways the planet on which the dead have returned to life is a heavenly place, as all their physical needs are catered for. The warm climate means that clothes are not needed, and food and drink are provided, seemingly miraculously, by strange devices known as "grails". Life on this new world, however, predictably proves far from heavenly. The resurrected humans have psychological difficulties in coming to terms with an afterlife quite different to anything prophesied by any religion. They quickly revert to many of the worst features of their Earthly existence, including warfare and slavery. Most of the plot of the novel deals with Burton's exploration of this brave new world and his attempts to find out who is responsible for recreating the whole human race and why they should have done such a thing. (As this is only the first book of five, it is perhaps not surprising that no very clear answers are given- Farmer clearly wanted to keep some surprises in store for future volumes. It appears, however, that those behind the scheme are a shadowy group known as "the Ethicals").

The incorrigibly inquisitive Burton is a great character, but few of the others are particularly memorable, except perhaps for Alice, portrayed as a rather prim Victorian lady who nevertheless becomes Burton's lover, and she drops out of the novel in its second half when Burton strikes out on his own to discover the truth behind Riverworld.

As a prose stylist, Farmer is workmanlike but unremarkable; his great virtue is his ability to create a brilliantly imagined alternative reality. The novel is normally categorised as science fiction, although that is perhaps not the best description if one regards sci-fi as the genre which speculates about possible future developments in technology and how human society might be transformed by them. It might be more accurate to regard "To Your Scattered Bodies Go" as a metaphysical fantasy. The "science" employed by the Ethicals in creating Riverworld is so far in advance of anything that we can accomplish or even imagine that it becomes almost indistinguishable from magic. Farmer's aim, it seems to me, was less to ask questions about the future course of social development than to use an ostensible science fiction format to ask questions about existing human societies, about human nature and about such metaphysical matters as the purpose of existence. I look forward with pleasure to reading the next instalment in the series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars boys' own adventure on the endless river, 19 Feb 2009
This is an enjoyable, sprawling adventure that falls somewhere between sf and fantasy. Richard Burton, real-life translator of the Arabian Nights, 'explorer, brawler, scholar' and all-round Real Man, wakens from his deathbed to find himself reborn, naked, into a strange world based around a seemingly endless river, hemmed in on either side by impassable mountains. Reincarnated with him, and also naked, are countless millions of other humans, from all ages and civilisations, cavemen to modern man and beyond. Once the initial shock of rebirth has passed, most of the reborn are content to pair off, build huts, fight, get intoxicated, enslave their fellow man, etc....but Burton is determined to find out who, or what, is behind this mass reincarnation, and he sets off to find the source of the river, where he believes he will find the meaning of his new life.

There is a bit of romantic interest at the start of the book, when Burton meets and quickly falls in love with Alice Hargreaves, the real-life inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. But this is soon abandoned for the real thrust of the book, which is non-stop action, adventure, gory fighting and general manliness as Burton struggles to reach his destination.

The scope of this story is huge, and a world populated by people from all ages of human history, including real-life historical figures, is always going to be difficult to pull off. The author manages well for the most part, purely through the verve and momentum of his writing. There are inevitable anachronisms and historical clunkers, and characterisation is necessarily sketchy, but it's an enjoyable and gripping read for the most part. There is enough left unresolved by the end of the book to send you to the next book in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars original idea, engagingly told, 22 Oct 2006
By 
Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is an original book, told in an engaging way that keeps you turning the pages from the moment you start reading. It's kinda post apocalyptic in as much as everyone has to fend for themselves and start from scratch in a new environment, and it also looks at ideas of the afterlife and different perceptions of heaven. It is fascinating to read about the different people and how they react to one another with different social conventions, and how they utilise the skills they used in their own periods of history. This is a great sci-fi novel, but once you start reading one, you're going to want to track down the complete series! Great Sci-fi!

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting tale, and the best book in the series, 23 Jun 2001
By A Customer
All humans ever born awakened in the valley of a monstrous river winding its course around the planet, can a novelist be any more ambitious? The daring hero is a known icon of his time, Sir Francis Richard Burton, now in the explorer's ultimate quest, to find the origins of that river and the gods who created it. A provoking caleidoscope, stuffed with history banged together, not a single dull page.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great read better than the film, 19 Jun 2014
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Really enjoyed this few years late in readin it lol. much superior to the film, thouroghly recommended proper sci fi.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed, 12 Mar 2014
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Indianna (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
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I found this book difficult to read. It seems to lack cohesive flow and jumps around rather a lot. After a time, I found the scenarios somewhat 'samey.' Difficult to engage with any of the characters. A cult novel, certainly original, but not for me - mainly because of the writing style.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction at it's best., 12 Dec 2013
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A wonderful feast for the imagination. An endless river populated by everyone that ever lived. All thrown together. They awake aged 25 and naked. What follows is an engrossing tale. If you love history I urge you to read this. After the first chapter you will be completely hooked.
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5.0 out of 5 stars what a book, 20 Aug 2013
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probably one of the best books I have ever read. Ist read in paperback way back when it was first released then again on paper 5 years ago now on kindle and it is STILL a super read thanx Amazon
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To Your Scattered Bodies Go
To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Josť Farmer (Paperback - 27 Sep 1993)
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